Democracy Now! co-host and columnist for the New York Daily News. His latest article is the cover story for the paper, 'Consultants' getting $722M a year from city for doomed CityTime computer project.
In a cover story for the New York Daily News, Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez reports New York City is "paying some 230 'consultants' an average salary of $400,000 a year for a computer project that is seven years behind schedule and vastly over budget. The payments continue despite Mayor Bloomberg’s admission the computerized timekeeping and payroll system — called CityTime — is 'a disaster.'" [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you have the front page story in the New York Daily News today.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. It’s about a — well, you could call New York’s version of Boston’s Big Dig, only it’s in cyberspace, that the city has been — is spending now up to more than $722 million, ten times what it originally started to spend, to create a new computerized payroll system. This is happening all around the country, as cities are increasingly going to computerization of government services. The only problem is that this project is seven years behind schedule, ten times the cost, and the city is paying over 200 computer consultants an average pay right now of $400,000 a year —-
AMY GOODMAN: Each?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Each, including eleven of them that I found in city records through a FOIA who are being paid over $600,000 a year -— $670, $650, $630 — all to design a system that is far from complete and is only covering about a third of the city workers. It’s a payroll system where they were going to have workers, for instance, punch in with biometric hand scanners when they come in in the morning, at lunchtime, to supposedly to avoid city workers punching in for other workers and, in essence, stealing time.
AMY GOODMAN: Your hand goes in.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, you have to put your hand into a biometric reader, which reads your palm print, and it says that you are the person that is punching in for work that day, but also using computers. When you log into your computer, it punches you in for work that day. But it is a vast timekeeping and payroll system that is now verging on a billion dollars in cost and is not complete after ten years. But this is happening all around the country, as more and more governments are going to computerization. The costs that are being spent on these consultants, these private consultants, dwarf any kind of city salaries that ordinary workers are being paid.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is Mayor Bloomberg saying about it?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Mayor Bloomberg admitted three weeks ago, after several other articles that I wrote, that it’s a disaster. Yet he just approved another $139 million to be spent on these salaries. The problem is no one knew how much these people were being paid, because their salaries don’t appear in normal city records. It’s a capital expenditure, so you have to really dig into the contracts to find out what these people are being paid.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s nice to know cities aren’t strapped, that they have plenty of money to spend in their budgets.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Oh, yeah. Well, the city just laid off 500 public school aides who make $18,000 a year, while they’re paying all these people that are making $400,000 and $500,000 a year for a failed system.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, good reporting, Juan.